Bowes and Bounds Connected

A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green

Hi Bowes and Bounds residents

I suspect that Enfield and/or Haringey have suspended spraying weeds on our roads and pavements. I know from web-searching that many councils across the UK have done this as a cost-saving measure. (Please do read on as this is not simply a Council-bashing moan!).

Certainly this year the weeds have really taken hold and I cannot remember anything like this in previous years. Of course many of the weeds are "relatively innocuous" annuals and can be uprooted as you go by, but around my locality there are hundreds of rampant perennial Buddleia seedlings around which, left to themselves, will be 3-4 feet tall next summer - effectively they will be small trees. Cutting them off at ground level is futile as anyone who has tried this in their garden will know - boy, do they come back! Unlike many other weeds their roots are deep and tough, making them almost impossible to pull out (I have tried!). The only way to deal with these is by spraying (unless you want to dig up the paving stones).

The result of the weed invasion is not only potentially hazardous to pedestrians (as the weeds degrade joints in the pavements which will lead to displaced paving stones especially after the winter) but has to be a classic example of false economy, as the cost of renovating the pavements will be gigantic in comparison to the saving from suspending spraying.  Of course, the saving will be in this financial year, while the costs will be in the future. It's not difficult to imagine this kind of decision being made in the current climate.

As Bowes and Bounds Connected is essentially a community-based site I would strongly suggest that there is an additional effect on us all, besides the risk of tripping or having our Council Tax inflated. What the Council trendily refers to as the "streetscene" is part of our unconscious assessment of our neighbourhood, together with such things as litter, graffiti, vandalism, car crime, excessive noise and so on.

I suggest what we see around us as we walk down your street affects the way we feel about our environment and shapes our own behaviour. I would further suggest that decay of the environment encourages further decay. If someone is looking for a bin for their empty lager can or fast food box, and the streets around them are already full of litter, what are they likely to do? Look around you and think about this the next time you walk to the tube station or the shops. Do some streets feel more welcoming than others? Why is that?

I would say weed growth on the pavements is all part of this as well. It engenders a shabbiness and unkemptness which encourages further deterioration. This gives us a total of three great reasons for weed prevention - safety, cost and environmental quality.

So, is it all the Council's fault? Well, there are few easier targets. However I would suggest an alternative view is worth taking - that the streets are our responsibility too.

As I am one of those slightly mad people who picks up and recycles the litter in my own street I decided that instead of continuing my expert hand-wringing, I would carry out my own weed-spraying campaign, as I have a decent-sized spray tank in my shed: so at least the few hundred yards around my house are now quite clear. It cost me about a fiver to do two thorough sprays, which I thought was worthwhile. This directly affects several hundred houses, plus all the people who walk through our streets each day.

I don't object to being thought a bit odd, but I would say in my defense that I live in our streets 365 days a year and what I see all around me, every day, conditions my attitudes to our community. The most poisonous thought we can have in these days of Council cutbacks are that we are powerless to pick up some of the slack - powerless to have an effect on our own immediate environment. If we have been living beyond our means as a society, and the Council have to choose between spraying the pavements and front-line caring services, how about we all pitch in locally to help?  It's not too late to spray this autumn - or next spring will be good too. You could recycle some cans while you're at it. The benefits to us all vastly outweight the effort involved.

Geoff

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Hi Geoff

I too have noticed an increase in vegetation on the pavements - initially I wondered about a wet summer and warm autumn leading to the growth. However, I quickly arrived at the same conclusion as you - cuts in council maintenance and a reduction / withdrawl of weed spraying.

I agree it's difficult to prioritise this element of council services over frontline caring services - but many short-term savings (cuts!) do, as you rightly state, store up longer term costs - often from different budgets.  For example closure of youth clubs and play provision in Haringey was cited before the summer as potentially having longer term ramifications. Simple low-cost youth club input now will be more cost-effective for us all than criminal sanctions – potentially prison – later on. (See this report published yesterday for example).

So in a tough economic climate there are options. Do we sit back and watch things decline - or step up and get involved. The nebulous "Big Society" rhetoric of the current coalition government promoted the latter. Stripped of its political spin I have some sympathy with the idea of willing citizens participating in making their neighbourhood and their community a pleasant place to live. Locally for example we all benefit from the efforts of a few volunteers who look after the community garden in Myddleton Road and Finsbury Gardens - its not a major stretch to imagine that work extended to the pavements that lead to these lovely local amenities.... however if it means that the jobs of council gardeners and street sweepers can be replaced by volunteers, then I'm not sure that it is the best solution for all?

 

Hi Richard

 

Nice to hear from you - sometimes when you write something and you get no replies you do wonder whether anyone is listening! But then I'm sure you're used to that - not that what you have to say isn't very worthwhile, but most people seem to hae built up a huge shell of apathy around their (in)activities and we have to dismantle it as soon as possible. There's this huge danger to our future called "IT'S NOT MY JOB".

 

I do not favour council workers losing their jobs - after all I DO want them to be round our way spraying the weeds if possible, and definitely mending the roads and pavements. But a spell of genuine council austerity might remind people that there are simple solutions to simple streetscene problems. With 500 people living in a typical street and walking up and down it at least once a day, everyday litter should be a thing of the past. And in autumn, the natural bounty of fallen leaves is there to collect for our gardens (free leaf compost). We only have to look back a few generations to the days of horses and carts: there was no "manure problem" requiring cleanup - as soon as a delivery cart left this bounty, sharp-eyed residents were out with their shovels to get it on their veg patches. The idea of getting paid workmen to keep roads tidy (as opposed to the genuine maintenance required) can be seen as a modern quirk.

 

I have huge respect for guerilla gardeners - I see weedkiller spraying as just the other side of the coin from taking over disused patches of soil or municipal beds and beautifying them. It's not whether you're killing plants as opposed to growing them, it's taking benevolent control of an aspect of our environments. This can be either completely separate from the council (like classic guerilla gardeners) or in cooperation with the council: the volunteers in Broomfield Park have done great things during a period of gradual withdrawal of council manpower, for example, by providing the manpower to plant council-provided plants and bulbs.

 

However, the reality is that the residents of 99 of every 100 houses take no interest whatever in their immediate environment - even those who are active in things like Pinkham Way. Why this should be is a question for greater minds than mine. I guess one of my reasons for writing my piece was to try to get some feedback from the other side of the fence, as it were.

 

Best wishes and keep up the good work

 

Geoff

 

Richard McKeever said:

Hi Geoff

I too have noticed an increase in vegetation on the pavements - initially I wondered about a wet summer and warm autumn leading to the growth. However, I quickly arrived at the same conclusion as you - cuts in council maintenance and a reduction / withdrawl of weed spraying.

I agree it's difficult to prioritise this element of council services over frontline caring services - but many short-term savings (cuts!) do, as you rightly state, store up longer term costs - often from different budgets.  For example closure of youth clubs and play provision in Haringey was cited before the summer as potentially having longer term ramifications. Simple low-cost youth club input now will be more cost-effective for us all than criminal sanctions – potentially prison – later on. (See this report published yesterday for example).

So in a tough economic climate there are options. Do we sit back and watch things decline - or step up and get involved. The nebulous "Big Society" rhetoric of the current coalition government promoted the latter. Stripped of its political spin I have some sympathy with the idea of willing citizens participating in making their neighbourhood and their community a pleasant place to live. Locally for example we all benefit from the efforts of a few volunteers who look after the community garden in Myddleton Road and Finsbury Gardens - its not a major stretch to imagine that work extended to the pavements that lead to these lovely local amenities.... however if it means that the jobs of council gardeners and street sweepers can be replaced by volunteers, then I'm not sure that it is the best solution for all?

 

I might not go in for the weed spraying but I certainly am one of those 'mad' people who pick up cans and bottles from my street to put in my own recycling bin. I don't do it all the time but when I have chance. I think people notice- even if it's just the patch outside your own front yard. My next door neighbour used to sweep her bit of the pavement- maybe that was because she was old partly but not totally so. It would be great if more people could do a bit, set an example, show some concern. And if kids see adults doing these things they might see a different role model to those who go along dropping litter all over the place. A bit of respect and pride in our neighbourhoods are positive energies and might sow seeds (not weeds) along our shared pavements. 

Dear Ruth

 

Absolutely - I agree 100%.

 

I always hoped that others were doing "guerilla litterpicking", it's just that I have never actually seen them! And of course by doing it in full visibility as it were, you are indeed planting seeds in people's minds. They may not join in tomorrow, or next month, but the fact that they have seen it happening lowers the threshold in their own mind that they might one day join in. Everything we do is an example to others: it is pessimistic in the extreme only to regard negative examples (such as littering) as influential. For those with cars who must drive in London, try spending an entire journey always letting waiting cars into your stream of traffic. If you're on foot, smile and say hello to people in your street. Spread examples of positive behaviour.

 

I was also struck by what you said about your neighbour sweeping the pavement outside her house - I am certain this was once widespread from a sense of personal pride, just as proudly blacking the front step was for tenants of terraced houses without front gardens. Just because most people have never known this, or have forgotten it, does not mean we cannot turn the clock back and rediscover these absurdly easy steps to improving our environment.

 

Carry on carrying on!

 

Geoff

 

Ruth C said:

I might not go in for the weed spraying but I certainly am one of those 'mad' people who pick up cans and bottles from my street to put in my own recycling bin. I don't do it all the time but when I have chance. I think people notice- even if it's just the patch outside your own front yard. My next door neighbour used to sweep her bit of the pavement- maybe that was because she was old partly but not totally so. It would be great if more people could do a bit, set an example, show some concern. And if kids see adults doing these things they might see a different role model to those who go along dropping litter all over the place. A bit of respect and pride in our neighbourhoods are positive energies and might sow seeds (not weeds) along our shared pavements. 

Thanks Geoff! I like the idea of being a guerilla litter picker. I should don khaki perhaps....

My neighbour was sweeping up right up until near her death. It was a generational thing plus maybe her Cypriot background added to the idea that everywhere had to be spotless. She used to get so very depressed by the decline in standards of cleanliness where we live and constantly harked back to the days when Haringey was such a clean place to live. Of course back then there weren't take aways all over the place and people didnt feel the need to keep stuffing their faces as they are on the move. A lot of social change and we lead different life styles- but change can happen again. For the good. 

Happy litter picking! 

 

I think picking up litter near your own home is a good idea. Littered streets are depressing and, I agree, have a negative effect on the general atmosphere of an area.

If we are going to do guerrilla weedkilling, though, we do need to be very careful that these poisons don't effect the trees that we do want to keep. Just outside my last house there was a rowan tree that gave such pleasure in autumn with its red berries. There is also a young rowan tree outside my present property and I would hate to see it killed off. 

Dear Diana

 

Naturally it would be a disaster if uncontrolled spraying affected cherished plants or trees. Luckily modern agents such as glyphosate (which is what I use at my allotment to kill long-established weed invasions, and used in the street) work purely by spray onto leaves, where the chemical is absorbed. Any excess chemical decays rapidly on contact with soil so cannot be taken up by other plants nearby. So you simply have to make sure you only spray the foliage of the weeds you want to get rid of. Even plants right next to them are unaffected if you are careful. This is quite different to older-type weedkillers that work by spraying the ground and then being taken up by the roots. The usual brand name for glyphosate is RoundUp.

 

I should say that I fully support those many gardeners and allotmenteers who work purely organically without recourse to chemicals. However there are times and situations when, if you are not fully organic, glyphosate can be tremendously useful if you do not have the time or opportunity to dig everything out by hand. In an allotment the roots of pernicious spreading weeds can go down several feet, and I don't think either residents or council would like to see me digging up the pavement to get at Buddleia roots...

 

The other thing on your side is that it takes far more chemical to kill a large plant than a small one. This is why it is so much better to do what the council used to do, which is to spray the small actively-growing weeds in spring when they are at their most vulnerable. An established tree would require so much glyphosate that it would be a far more sensible option to dig it up if you wanted to get rid of it. Accidentally spraying a few leaves would be neither here nor there to a tree or established shrub.

 

Far more of a danger to trees in our district is Network Rail...

 

Geoff

 

Diana Ferguson said:

I think picking up litter near your own home is a good idea. Littered streets are depressing and, I agree, have a negative effect on the general atmosphere of an area.

If we are going to do guerrilla weedkilling, though, we do need to be very careful that these poisons don't effect the trees that we do want to keep. Just outside my last house there was a rowan tree that gave such pleasure in autumn with its red berries. There is also a young rowan tree outside my present property and I would hate to see it killed off. 

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